The National Assembly voted down two key demands of anti-government protesters on Thursday when its members unanimously backed a resolution rejecting calls for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and the dissolution of legislative assemblies.
In a strong message to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), whose supporters have besieged parliament house, lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle made it clear that ‘Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will not resign’ despite the protracted sit-ins.
The prime minister, who made an appearance in the National Assembly on Thursday, has visited the lower house thrice since anti-government demonstrators swarmed into the heart of the capital, threatening to oust his 15-month old government.
Though a majority of opposition members were missing during Thursday’s session, the premier succeeded in bagging the support of all parliamentary parties in the house of 342 members except 38 members of opposition parties, including PTI and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).
The prime minister thanked the chief of Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMap) Mehmood Khan Achakzai—who tabled the resolution—by waving his hands towards him when the house adopted the resolution.
The resolution said that the house unanimously rejects the unconstitutional demands of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, including the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the dissolution of the National Assembly.
“This house resolves to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the sovereignty of parliament, which embodies the will and the mandate of the people of Pakistan, and the prevalence of the rule of law. It reiterates its resolve to ensure that the democratic system continues to function and flourish in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” the resolution further stated.
During the session, Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, who heads the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and lawmaker Ijazul Haq delivered fiery speeches condemning the protesting parties for what they called was an unconstitutional tactic to oust the government.
In a rare show of unity, foes and allies joined ranks to support the prime minister. Speeches by Sherpao and Haq were greeted with the thumping of desks.
Questioning the motives behind the protests, Sherpao said that the sit-in staged outside parliament was part of a conspiracy against the country.
Raising the chorus against PAT and PTI, the Qaumi Watan Party chief demanded that ‘we want to know who is backing Pakistan Muslim League Quaid, PAT, and PTI’s agenda.
Sherpao said that both Pakistan PAT and PTI left Lahore and arrived in Islamabad the same day and later crossed into the red zone area for a sit-in outside the Parliament House, all this is apparently part of some conspiracy theory, he said.
Referring to Imran Khan as Kaptaan, he said that he keeps changing his statements and decisions every now and then. Wrapping up his comments, the QWP chief condemned the use of undemocratic tactics to destabilise the democratic system in the country.
Throwing his weight behind his former party chief, Haq, who was once a part of the ruling PML-N, lauded the government for its patience in these trying times.
He said “38 MNAs [of PTI] cannot make a decision about a house of 342 members.” “I will lay down my life before anything happens to my country.”
“Imran wishes to occupy the prime minister’s office, but he uses derogatory language against it which is not acceptable,” Haq said.
He urged political parties to hold dialogue within constitutional parameters and said that parliament comprising 342 members could not be sacked upon the orders of 38 people.
Perturbed by the PTI chief’s speeches, Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker Abdul Sattar Bachani said: “I am surprised how people voted for Imran Khan and accepted him as their leader.”
As the resolution fared through the lower house of parliament, a visibly relieved Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif responded to the support from members of the opposition and treasury benches by thumping his desk in appreciation of the move.
While lawmakers and those seated in the galleries anticipated the prime minister to address the house National Assembly Speaker announced adjournment of the session.
Earlier, lawmakers also gave a rousing reception to Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah as he entered the house.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2014.